The symbiotic Pakistan-U.S. defence relationship created a perfect need-based fix - one partner needed war to achieve its ambitions of hegemony while the other was addicted to weapons and petro-dollars.
What began as a starry-eyed romance between the U.S. and Pakistan, i.e. an emerging superpower and a newly-independent state to cooperate as allies in development saw many twists and turns as the relationship between the two countries progressed and morphed. We had a rejuvenated rising Western power, brimming with confidence from its recent successes in the Second World War (WW2), now driven to stamp its influence - and a newly-born Muslim state in South Asia with great hope and aspirations to carve out a future as an independent sovereign state, serving as a bridge between the Western powers and the Islamic countries.
In its infancy, the relationship benefited from the growing American economic and cultural influence through the spread of its ideals of freedom and democracy through its films, literature and entertainment with an open door policy for visas for travel and education abroad. This was welcomed and readily imbibed by a burgeoning middle class in the 1950s and 60s in Pakistan. Such were the early mutual aspirations of the two countries, the U.S. and Pakistan, bristling with hope albeit in different continents - a world apart.
They initially endeavoured to cooperate in spheres of nation building; they also entered into strategic military pacts which increasingly shaped to govern and dictate their distinct and often conflicting interests. The Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union saw smaller states like Pakistan caught precariously in the middle. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship - slowly but surely became an arrangement of strategic convenience with the dominant partner calling the shots. Pakistan’s nascent democracy was the biggest causality in this new relationship as the U.S. began a longstanding relationship with Pakistan’s successive military rulers.
The US, after the Great War, realised that ‘war’ in itself was a very profitable industry and the investment in the “industrial military complex” (a phrase first coined by U.S. President Eisenhower) made for WW2 had to justify continuous returns. After the Indochina war (against the spread of communism) and the Middle East wars (to control crude oil supplies), the stage was set for the pursuit of dominance in South Asia. Pakistan’s strategic geography at the confluence of South, Central and West Asia became its biggest curse. Post the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the Iraq war followed by the events of September 11, 2001, the U.S. went on a rampage of military aggression and dominance in the Middle East. With domestic sentiments firmly aligned, the stage was set for a contrived and purposefully manufactured and conveniently amorphous ‘war on terror’.
Meanwhile, the symbiotic Pakistan-U.S. defence relationship created a perfect need-based fix - one partner needed war to achieve its ambitions of hegemony while the other was addicted to weapons and petro-dollars to service its rich and powerful client while shoring up its own economic interests and privileges rather than investing in its largely impoverished people.
As mutual mistrust and unilateral demands became increasingly frequent and acrimonious leading to America’s eventual ignominious departure from Afghanistan in 2021, it finally signalled the end of an ill-founded transactional arrangement that never really was based on actually supporting human rights, freedom and shared democratic aspirations.
The writer is the founder chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EcoPack Ltd.
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